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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Stuart Little Deluxe Edition
Stuart Little Deluxe Edition
Columbia/Tri-Star // PG // May 21, 2002
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted May 29, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

(movie review written in 2000)

"Stuart Little" is an impressive production, a film that does a wonderful job integrating a totally animated character into the story, and having a group of real actors who do a fine job around him. Based on the popular children's tale, and written for the screen partially by "Sixth Sense" director M. Night Shyamalan, the film offers solid family entertainment.

The story in this film starts off with the Littles visiting the adoption agency, not to adopt a child, but a little talking mouse. Soon enough, Stuart becomes part of the family that includes parents (Geena Davis and Hugh Laurie) as well as a bigger brother("Jerry Maguire"'s Jonathan Lipnicki). While everything is fine for a while, family cat Snowball(voiced by Nathan Lane) becomes jealous of the new family member, and wants to see him out of the picture.

When two "parent mice" come to take Stuart back to their house in the park, Stuart must find his way back to the Little house and away from a group of cats that include the vocal talents of Steve Zahn and Chazz Palmenteri.

The effect of Stuart is mostly excellent, and the effect is helped by the great personality that Michael J. Fox brings to the role with his vocal talents. While there hasn't been a great deal of solid kids films lately, "Stuart Little" is a very sweet, very well-done feature that both adults and children can enjoy.


VIDEO: The biggest disapointment of this "Deluxe Edition" is that the film is not presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Instead of the beautiful anamorphic widescreen presentation available on that edition, we are presented with a pan & scan offering. That disapointment aside, the picture quality is good, if occasionally flawed. Sharpness and detail are very good, as the picture has excellent depth and detail to the image.

Some problems occasionally do make their presence known. Minor pixelation is noticable during a handful of scenes, as are a few specks on the print used. Grain also seemed more apparent on this full-frame edition. On a positive note, at least edge enhancement is kept to a bare minimum.

The film's vibrant color palette is attractively presented once again here, appearing well-saturated and bright, with no smearing or other faults. Overall, the picture quality here is respectable, but it's unfortunate that the anamorphic widescreen edition (which not only offers the film in its original aspect ratio, but better overall image quality) wasn't included again here.

SOUND: "Stuart Little" is once again presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Although "Stuart Little" is a family feature, it's apparent early on that this is no mere sound production and quite a pleasing audio experience. While surrounds are not used agressively, there are several scenes where they offer sound effects quite well. Alan Silvestri's enjoyable score is also supported by the rear speakers. Audio quality is excellent; while there's nothing in the way of bass (nor did there really need to be), all the elements remained crisp and clear.

MENUS: The same impressive animated main and sub-menus that were available on the previous release return here. The menus take viewers into different rooms in the Little house.

EXTRAS: "Stuart Little: Deluxe Edition" doesn't really live up to the title. Besides the fact that this edition doesn't offer a widescreen presentation, the only new material to the supplemental section is a couple of little pieces about the upcoming sequel. If the studio would like to use the format to market their new theatrical releases, they should consider offering promotional DVDs for around $5-7 that contain a featurette about the new movie, trailers, interviews and other material. But there's really nothing here to justify a repurchase for those who have the original release. For those who don't have the title already, I'd recommend the widescreen edition instead.

New Material: The new material on this disc includes a short "making of" for "Stuart Little 2" (4 minutes), a "Little Look With Stuart" game and the "Stuart Little 2" teaser trailer. All of the material listed below was available on previous DVD editions.

(extras review written in 2000)
Commentary One: This is a commentary by director Rob Minkoff and animation supervisor Henry Anderson. I'd expected the talk to be geared a great deal towards effects, and there is quite a bit of effects talk, but this commentary offers notes on many different subjects. The duo talk about what it was like to work with all of the actors (big and small), the animation and tricks that were used and also, a great deal of other secrets of production "magic".

Of course, in a film like this, the actors aren't filming with Stuart, and the directors talk about how they were able to get the cast to focus on where Stuart would be, which I found quite interesting. Speaking of Stuart, the two talk frequently about the effects and animation that were used to bring the character to the screen, as well as subjects like the pros of an animatronic Stuart versus a computer-generated one.

They also chat about working with the many actors involved, and how they had to interact with Stuart. With Stuart, they also chat about concepts behind the character, and many ideas about how he had to be fit into his various scenes.

It's an entertaining commentary that never gets too technical - the whole family can enjoy listening to how the movie was created.

Commentary Two: This is a commentary from the FX team of John Dykstra and Jerome Chen. The most important task for the two was integrating Stuart into the picture with a seamless look. On the topic of look, they were also responsible for creating the "look" of the character, and the commentary talks about how they were able to maintain the intended look of Stuart throughout the entire movie.

The two expand upon some of the "tricks" that were talked about during the first commentary, such as the various forms that were used to put Stuart into the environment, such as "computer generated versus animatronic". They go through almost every scene and point out not only the effects that were used to bring Stuart into reality, but a number of other elements of the movie, such as how the cats were able to be shown talking.

The commentary is a little more technical than the first, and although adults will likely enjoy it, kids may be confused by all of the FX terms.

Production Gag Reel: A very funny (and nicely edited) three and a half minute reel of actors forgetting their lines or other little on-set mix-ups.

Visual Effects Gag Reel: Unfortunately, this is only about 30 seconds long, but contains a couple of scenes where the FX people were having fun with the characters.

Deleted Scenes: Included is a group of deleted scenes that have the option of commentary from director Rob Minkoff. While I think some of these scenes could maybe have worked within the film, the creators probably wanted to keep a film like this near or around the 85 minute running time. All in all, the scenes make up a little over 5 minutes worth of footage.

Visual Effects Featurettes: 6 sequences have been broken down into four pieces, so that viewers can more easily see the steps taken in the process from the first shots to the final animation for each sequence. These clips are short (it would have been nice for a "play all" option that shows the 4 back-to-back for each), and are narrated by one of the members of the effects crew.

Early Boat Race Sequence: Narrated by Rob Minkoff, this section shows the original storyboards for the first concept of the boat race scene. Minkoff talks about the importance of the scene in the rest of the movie, and why the sequence was changed. It's full of really cool ideas, so it's unfortunate that it wasn't used in the final picture. This section is about 8 minutes in length.

Stuart's Central Park Adventure Game: A very nice interactive trivia game that offers different levels of difficulty.

Animation Screen Tests: This is a section with tests by different animators from the film that experimented with integrating Stuart into an environment.

HBO Special: Making It Big: A cute little documentary narrated by Stuart himself, taking the audience through much of the usual documentary material. The interviews and behind-the-scenes footage offer a fine look at the making of the movie. Of course though, this is in-between many clips from the movie. Some of the bits, like Stuart's acting history, is actually pretty funny(he does his own stunts!). Not a bad documentary at all.

TheCATtrical trailers: Stuart Little, Adventures Of Elmo In Grouchland, Madeline, Nuttiest Nutcracker, Baby Geniuses and Muppets from Space were the trailers included on the original release. This new edition includes the "Stuart Little 2" teaser trailer, as well as the trailer for "Stuart Little", "Kermit's Swamp Years", "Maggie and the Ferocious Beast", "Trumpet of the Swan" and "Little Secrets".

Music Videos: "If You Can't Rock Me" by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, "You're Where I Belong" by Trisha Yearwood and "I Need To Know" by R Angels.

Also: A "read-along"; a scrapbook filled with tons of concept art for Stuart and other elements, talent files, an isolated music score, and DVD-ROM material, including web-links.

Final Thoughts: "Stuart Little" is a very entertaining kid's picture, with great effects, some heartwarming moments and a few exciting scenes. Columbia/Tristar's "Deluxe Edition" of the picture isn't very deluxe, not offering a widescreen edition and bringing very little to the table in new supplements. I have no trouble recommending the widescreen special edition of the film currently available, but this new edition simply doesn't seem necessary.

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